No, not by Santa in Rudolph – although I can agree with the recent news blitz that Santa needed a bit more sugar to sweeten up his sour.
And no, not by Charlie Brown – though that single hair on his bald little head does offend my sensibilities – and yes, in seriousness, as a mother of Haitian children, I wish Franklin had a buddy and a decent chair at the Thanksgiving table.
But my offense has been longer term – and landed me in a dark place – because simmering under the surface of my smile, I just didn’t get it. I was offended.
See, I didn’t understand why I had to be so different. Tall, awkward, heavy, pigeon-toed. Last name that essentially begged for a good joke – Kok. Middle school was horrific – particularly on the day I made a fashion statement by wearing a skirt and boy’s tube socks. Yes, I did that. Worse, I thought it was a good idea.
Later on I was angry about my broken marriage. It was painful and heartbreaking. I hated that I went through a divorce. Why me? Why was I a single parent when all my family members were happily married?
When my dad went sailing and his boat came home without him, I wrestled with a ton of questions. He had drowned. No goodbye. No answers. And then adding heartbreak to heartbreak, my strong, handsome nephew lost his life in a car accident 12 days later.
And the day our initial domestic adoption fell through – that dark Thursday when the baby was born and his mom gave him to another family. My heart was sick. I didn’t get it. Why? And when it took four long years to bring our babies home from Haiti, I was confused. It seemed wrong that they had to wait so long to know our hugs, snuggles and kisses. What was happening?
God didn’t see fit to follow my timeline, to preserve my heart the way I wanted him to.
And in different seasons, in different quiet moments, I was offended.
I know I’m not alone.
I’ve heard your stories. I know many of your heartaches. Your road hasn’t been easy either. And we question the one who could fix it all in a moment’s notice – and yet doesn’t.
This morning I was reading in Luke. John the Baptist – a faithful man who paved the way for Jesus – was in prison. He had heard that Jesus was on the scene – the one he had been talking about for years, the one he leapt for in his own mother’s womb. And he had to wonder, Why I am I still in prison? Why hasn’t he come for me? He sends a few of his disciples to talk to him. “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Kind of like, hey, if you’re the one, why haven’t you rescued John? And Jesus tells them to pass along a message to John. “Tell John what you have seen. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed…” in other words, good things are happening. I am here. He finishes by saying “And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
I imagine him saying that with tender eyes and a strong compelling voice. Tell John not to be offended. Hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. Then when the messengers are gone, Jesus goes on to tell the crowd how wonderful John is… of his faithfulness.
He is proud of him. He loves him.
Then why on earth would he leave him in prison? Why would he leave any of his kids – you and me – in yucky situations?
Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.
We live in a world of offense. We live in a world of pain. We live in a world where racism, cruelty, bullying and hatred exist. We live in a world with evil in it – and it always seems to surprise us. That in itself should be evidence of our God and his goodness. We weren’t built for this. We were built for a far better world where love reigns and joy resides. We are offended because we were made for more and the evil blindsides us.
Jesus asks us to lay down our offense. At him, at each other. Why? Because the story isn’t over yet. Because he wins. Because every wrong will be righted. He calls us to love him and love others deeply – to fight the offense with love. To see his goodness even when we are sitting in a prison cell. And I can see it. When I look back at the heartbreaks, I can see his goodness in it. How my awkward self and my pigeon toes were a temporary phase, not an identity, and how those painful years created in me a tender heart for the outcast. How he molded me and kept me and provided for me as a single mom. How he comforted me in my sadness over the loss of my dad and nephew. I see how the one failed adoption led to the four beautiful babies residing in our home today. And John the Baptist, sitting in that prison cell? Oh friends, I bet those days are long forgotten as John enjoys his saviors love and all the sweetness of heaven. Even his days in prison were not wasted – as we can all look to him and be encouraged in our own sorrows.
What’s even more amazing? Jesus put himself smack into the middle of offense. He lived, breathed and died love – and yet he was mocked, beaten, abandoned and killed. Did he rise up and fight the offense? Smite the offenders? He could have. But he didn’t. Instead he laid down his life, asked God to forgive those who were nailing him to a cross “for they know not what they do.”
Well shoot. That makes my offenses pale in comparison. At God – Jesus didn’t exempt himself from the heartbreak we all endure. At others – He loved the worst. Can I do the same?
Oh friends, as we trust him, as we love through offense – even though our ears may not hear it now – he is bragging about us. Just as he did with John. Only he is talking to the angels. “Look at her…” “Look at him…” “She is a bright light in this dark world. I love how she loves.” “He is a strong warrior for me – he is my beloved son.”
Yes, there is offense – and lots to be offended by… but hold fast. Hang tight. It’s not the end of the story. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”
Trust him. Love God. Love others. He will make all things right, in his time.
And oh, what a day that will be.